COVID-19 and the UK immigration system
COVID 19 – Visa Renewals, EU Processing Centres and Sponsors
International measures to reduce the impact of COVID 19 are affecting foreign nationals who want to come to the UK and those who are already here and can’t leave or extend their stay. The government has issued guidance that explains what will happen to people whose visas have, or are due to expire, EU Processing Centres and further guidance for employers who have a licence to sponsor non EU workers. The Home Secretary has stated:
“The UK continues to put the health and wellbeing of people first and nobody will be punished for circumstances outside of their control.”’
The guidance states people with a visa who can’t return home due to the COVID 19 pandemic can extend their visa. The extension will apply to anyone whose visa expired after the 24 January and who can’t leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation. At present this will last until 31 July 2020 but will be kept under regular review in case (as is possible) further extensions are needed.
An extension must be requested by updating your records with the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) if your visa is expiring and you cannot leave the UK at present but are not planning to stay in the UK in the long term. If you have previously had your visa extended to 31 May 2020, your visa will be extended automatically to 31 July 2020.
People who want to apply for visas to stay in the UK long term can temporarily do this in the UK. This will mean people can apply to switch routes, e.g. from Tier 4 Students to Tier 2 General Workers, without having to the leave the country.
The extension has been put in place to give these individuals peace of mind that they will not be penalised for overstaying their visas when the situation is out of their control due to COVID 19.
Reporting sponsored migrants working from home
The coronavirus is having a huge impact on businesses that rely on migrant workers. The Home Office has confirmed that all employers who have a licence to sponsor non EU workers will not have to report a change of location for all sponsored migrants working from home at present.
COVID 19 Helpline
A dedicated COVID 19 immigration helpline has been set up by the Home Office. Anyone in this situation must contact this team to let them know their visa has expired and they will be issued with an extension.
The government has set up a Coronavirus Immigration Helpline. Calls are free of charge.
- Telephone: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
- Email: CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk
Data Protection Regulations mean helpline staff will only speak to the visa holder about their specific query. Family members, sponsors or other third parties can speak on the visa holder’s behalf, if express consent is given.
This can be:
- verbal by phone with the visa holder present; or
- written by email. The email must be sent from the email address provided on the visa holder’s application to CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk
The above measures and welcome and necessary, however in such uncertain times it is extremely important that anyone who is not a British citizen, or ‘settled’ in the UK ensures that they are kept up to date about the rapidly changing events.
If you have been affected by this or any other UK immigration issues please contact our team.